If you are like me, you are passionate about Permaculture. You scour the internet, buy books, and get involved in any way that you can. My goal with this post is to shed some light on my journey into the amazing world of Permaculture. First, some background on how I was introduced to this wonderful and wise movement and the people that surround it.
I graduated college in 2011 from the University of San Diego with a degree in Business Administration. Shortly thereafter, I got a job with a fast-growing software firm right here in San Diego. I worked in the Inside Sales department executing 60 cold calls per day with the goal of introducing our product to potential new customers. It was a great learning experience and a great first job. I knew I wanted something different, however. Sitting long hours at a desk did not really suit my soul. I was not very passionate about our product and didn’t think it was sustainable for me to go on with my job there pretending to be someone I was not. Since I was a young kid, I always enjoyed nature and had huge amounts of respect for it. I always felt like “it” had a lot to teach me about life.
After a year of work for the Tech firm, I quit my job and went on a journey with my wife. Before we left for our trip, I was able to complete a gardening 101 class with Victory Gardens of San Diego. During the class, I had the opportunity to meet Yael Zaidman, a local Permaculturist and Co-Director of the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute. I told Yael that I was looking for a career change, and I shared with her my passions for nature, simplicity, growing my own food, and self sufficiency. She kindly pointed me in the direction of the Permaculture (and boy am I so thankful that she did!) movement and told me to start with some books. One book she recommended in particular was Toby Hemenway’s “Gaia’s Garden”.
After completing the class, my wife and I embarked on our journey to Europe. During the trip, I had the opportunity to do a lot of reading. I read “Gaia’s Garden” by Toby Hemingway and “One Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka from cover to cover. I was instantly hooked on natural farming and permaculture. I knew deep down that the observations and wisdom shared in these two books were invaluable. It all just made so much sense to me. Nature has been sharing it’s wisdom with us for thousands of years and some cultures, like the Kumeyaay Indian Nation of San Diego, practiced natural farming and were mainly a horticultural society. Throughout history, our society has moved further away from these horticultural practices and more towards industrialized agriculture. In this transition we have lost much of the wisdom that was harnessed by our ancestors. It has taken some very wise individuals…to capture these valuable lessons and make them accessible to our modern society through the dissemination of this information in straightforward, experiential accounts of their own observations.
Now, if you are just getting started in Permaculture as I am, it might seem a bit daunting to dive in head first. However, once you make your first step, you immediately notice its simplicity. I am learning that I must take things slow. One can’t learn everything there is to know about Permaculture in one day much less a lifetime of practice. We must start with one decision. As permaculturist like to say, “let’s get a harvest before we start getting into other projects because we can’t work on an empty stomach”. We must start with a small choice, and for me that was reading a book. After reading “Gaia’s Garden” , I had the framework for understanding the language of Permaculture. My eyes were opened up to the natural systems that are inherent in natural landscapes and everything just flowed from there. I learned that these decisions were very easy and flowed with the simple way that I wanted to live my life.
After getting a good idea of what Permaculture was all about, I then wanted to immediately get involved. Yael had told me about the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute, so naturally I started there. Started by a group of ecological optimists, the SDSLI offers hands-on workshops to educate and lead local San Diegans into an abundant and green future. I went to a Backyard Chickens workshops and met the Director, Josh Robinson. After the class, I knew that this organization was where I wanted to get my start. I wanted to help out in any way that I could. I knew that I might not be able to be a Permaculture Educator right off the bat, but I knew I could work towards that goal by getting involved with this great group of people. I looked to my experience, which wasn’t much coming right out of college, but I knew with my business background and sales experience that I could be of use in some way. Even though technology sales and cold calling seem like the farthest things away from the Permaculture principles, there are many useful skills that I learned that I can now offer my new community. For example, being comfortable approaching individuals for networking or sponsorships. My point is that no matter what field you come from whether it be from business, sports, or even an oil tycoon, there are skills that will carry over and opportunities available for you to get involved in Permaculture. If there isn’t anything that is close by, then start your own organization.
Just like nature, we must be flexible in these transitions. Work for your local handyman, plumber, landscaper, or organic farm. All of these hands-on skills will help you financially support your transition into you full time career in Permaculture. This is where I currently am in my journey, and I am trying to stack my functions and build my skill sets as quickly as possible, so I can one day be a Permaculture teacher and practitioner full-time. I believe the Permaculture movement is the way forward for our society. It allows us to take pressure off the giant wild spaces of monocultured farms, gives us access to healthy local food, and gives us a better sense of community by working together with our neighbors to meet our needs. These are just a few of the benefits…
I hope this article has given you some insight into my journey and inspired you to blaze your own path into an endeavor that is truly beneficial to our planet and its people. If we value our health and the health of our ecosystems (community, family, friends), we need to think about new models of existence, and Permaculture and its principles can give us a great start to that thought process. Let’s all start moving in a positive direction together and act on what we know by making small decisions everyday that we feel comfortable with. Whether it is growing some of your own food, reading a book on Permacutlure, or taking a reusable bag to the grocery store, we can all do our part to make our community a better place to live.
Stay tuned for my next blog post which will contain more adventures in Permaculture: including my certification course this Spring, classes with SDSLI, work with Brook Sarson at H2Home, food forests with Christopher Marciello at C2 Agriculture, and many more…
Kevin Muno is the Outreach Coordinator for the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute specializing in networking, sponsorships, and product sales. He looks forward to forward to the future growth of the Institute and himself as a Permaculture student in the San Diego area. He will be taking his Permaculture certification course with Josh Robinson this spring.